They headed in quickly, and Braden noticed Kaleb taking note of the image of one of the Astro Blasters that had operating instructions on it. The ride's actual blasters were quite unlike the more laser-gun resembling weapons they carried, but Braden assumed this was because the blasters on-ride were designed for recreational use by normal people, and not as protective weapons by the Disneyland Guardians.
They came to be at the loading dock, where the blue and green cars were parked at the dock. They stopped short of entering a set of cars. Only two blaster cars were present and Braden noticed this and wondered if Mickey had been waiting for them to arrive at this ride. They all stood and faced one another.
"Who's riding with who?" Braden asked, privately hoping he’d be able to shoot up with Kaleb. The Australian boy gave him a grin and a thumbs-up at once.
"I'll go with Tony." Kelly said, putting a protective hand on the little boy's shoulder. Tony smiled fondly and Braden turned to Kaleb with a smile.
"Alright, mate. That leaves you and me." Kaleb exclaimed to Braden, grinning. Braden grinned back and watched Kaleb slide into one of the cars, while Kelly and Tony entered the one behind him. Braden moved over to the controls and found a glowing green button again. He slammed his hand down on it, then ran and slid into the car Kaleb was in, seating himself beside the taller boy.
“Welcome to Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.” the cool, robotic male voice from Space Mountain said. “To give your blasters a permanent charge, we ask that you prove yourselves capable of handling such weapons by making it through this challenge. Score as many points as you can.”
“Easy.” Kaleb laughed as the ride darkened and their car moved into the shooting range. It was pitch-black and everything glowed the way Braden had remembered it would, but suddenly something hit the front of Braden and Kaleb’s car, and their restraint popped open. The two boys were flung forward, out of the car. Braden screwed his eyes shut, ready for impact.
Only, the impact never came. He heard Tony gasp, and then opened his eyes and noticed that he and Kaleb were floating, as though there was no gravity to hold them down at all. Braden looked down at their cart and laughed as he floated weightlessly through the chamber.
“This is badass.” Kaleb said from near him, floating upside-down and shooting at the targets. Braden grinned and began to do the same. He found himself shooting at them from all directions, but suddenly noticed Kelly yelling for them. Kelly and Tony’s cart was disappearing into the next scene. Tony threw all his weight (which speaking strictly, wasn't much) against the lever, keeping Kelly facing them. Kelly’s arm was outstretched.
It was Kaleb that caught her hand and held onto her wrist. Braden mimicked the hold on Kaleb’s other hand, both boys being dragged through the air into the next scene. They released their hold and began to shoot again. Braden’s back eventually touched the roof as he was shooting, and he felt something against it. Something that must have been banging on one of the walls of this building, a pulsing beat. He suddenly felt a sickening lurch in his stomach.
“Something’s coming!” Braden yelled. He moved through the air to Kelly and Tony’s car, and then noticed a flash from the room behind them. Kaleb had grabbed hold of the back of their car, just as the car began to move again. Braden lost his grip, barely catching hold of Kaleb’s ankles. He had very nearly been left behind.
“Hold on, bro!” Kaleb yelled. Braden clung onto Kaleb for dear life, not wanting to get left behind. He privately decided that being left behind to drift aimlessly while some unknown horror approached was probably not the smartest idea.
“It’s all that I can do!” Braden cried as the car was passing through the arch. Just then, the light grew monstrously bright. Braden turned his face towards the car, blinking, when he noticed what it was. A giant serpentine creature of some kind was moving along the path of the cars, mouth wide open and only a few inches from Braden’s foot. It had razor sharp teeth that snapped at Braden's ankles.
Braden immediately yelled and kicked out at it, trying to get it away from him. The others turned and began screaming and shouting at once too, with Kelly covering Tony's ears as Kaleb let out a beautiful stream of choice curse words. The jaws of the beast snapped open and shut, mere inches away from Braden's kicking legs.
“What the hell is that?” Kaleb yelled, pausing his cursing spree to examine the monstrosity behind them.
“I don’t know, but it’s too close for comfort!” Kelly yelled back. Braden shouted his head off as the creature approached them. Just then, Braden, kicking, accidentally kicked the back of the car and let out a roar of pain.
“Turbo activated.” a computerized voice said from the front of the car. Before anyone could even question what was going on, the car sped forward, with Kaleb and Braden barely able to hang on. All four of them screamed; it seemed like their car was out of control. Braden could feel his grip on Kaleb's ankles slipping.
"Hang on, Braden!" Kelly yelled. The resourceful girl looked around the control panel and noticed a button labeled "expand". Without even guessing at what it could do, she pressed it and the car suddenly popped out an extra row of seats that nearly made the boys lose their grip. Kaleb immediately saw what he had to do and began pulling himself into the row. Just as he tumbled into the row, Braden's grip on him slipped and he barely managed to grab hold of the back of the car. Kaleb pulled himself up and clutched Braden's wrist at the very last minute.
"I'm not letting go of you, mate!" Kaleb yelled as Braden put everything he had into holding onto Kaleb's wrist.
"You'd better not!" the boy yelled back as he dangled haphazardly from the car. Kaleb slowly but surely pulled Braden into the extra row of seats as they sped into what appeared to be open space. Kelly turned around and hissed at them to immediately lock their safety bar and as soon as the boys were sitting, they obeyed.
"At least the monster's gone." Tony breathed as Kelly ruffled the small boy's hair affectionately. By nature, Braden turned around to see what was behind them just as the beast came shooting out at them, its mouth wide open as the others turned with Braden and screamed. It suddenly grew dark. It had shut its mouth over them.
"Now what are we supposed to do?" Kelly asked as they were enclosed in darkness. Braden could feel Kaleb’s shoulder against his own and was glad the razor-sharp row of teeth had not snapped down on him.
"Me...I'm surprised we're still alive." Braden said. At that moment a wet glob dripped down onto Braden's shoulder and he yelled as several targets ahead of them lit up on what appeared to be the teeth. Braden tried to swat the glob off of him and found it was a gooey mess.
"Are those targets?" Kelly asked, pointing her gun up at them.
"I just got spit on!" Braden cried, trying to flick the saliva off of his shoulder. "This is disgusting, guys!"
“Look, maybe we can shoot our way out!” Kaleb cried. He pointed his gun up at one of the targets and fired and a tooth disappeared, replaced by an incredibly bright beam of light. Kelly took aim and destroyed another tooth, allowing even more light into the mouth. Braden stood in his seat and began firing. They had taken all the teeth out in seconds but saw only a bright light.
“Now what?” Kelly asked. “It looks like something else is supposed to happen.” As soon as she said this, the car gave a sickening lurch backwards and they all screamed. Braden was pitched backwards into his seat with a thump and swore loudly despite the tongue-lashing Kelly would certainly deliver to him for swearing in front of Tony, noticing something as he looked up. On the pink of the monster’s uvula, a patch of red glowed bright. Braden pointed it out as they slid backwards.
It was Kelly that hit it, and from no less than twenty yards off as they slid backwards rapidly. The whole car pitched forward and Braden barely avoided a concussion as his hands moved in front of his face, preventing contact with the back of the first row. With a heart-wrenching lurch, the car suddenly sped towards the light and Braden attempted to cover his eyes...
The four of them landed in a heap at the end of the ride, with Kelly and Tony landing conveniently onto Kaleb and Braden, who had been flung to the ground first. Kelly got up first, picking Tony up before Braden and Kaleb got up, grumbling.
“Hey, we’re at the end of the ride.” Kelly said, pointing. They could see the queue they had entered in and blinked at it.
"Some training course that was." Kaleb said, rubbing the back of his head.
Braden led the way down the hallway, but noticed something off. Just ahead was where the pictures taken on the Astro Blasters ride were viewed, but there was something jutting out of the wall, about the size and shape to accommodate a gun...
“This must be where we get out blasters fired up.” Braden said. He strode over and placed his blaster in the blaster bay. His gun made a slight pinging noise that reverberated pleasantly around the room, and his gun lights stopped flashing and became one solid stream. He kept his blaster ready while Kaleb and Kelly took turns getting their charge.
“So now what. There was something else here, wasn't there?” Kaleb asked, raising his gun. They continued into the gift shop and froze where they stood.
No less than eight LDOs were parked in the gift shop, feigning innocent childness in the way they examined toys and candies. Braden knew at once that they were counting on their appearances to halt the attack, knowing that the Guardians were now armed. Four of them were marching tightly around two figures that had been trussed-up and tied back-to-back.
“Chip n’ Dale.” Braden breathed. The LDOs looked up as though pretending they had only just seen the Guardians. It was Kaleb who rose first, hitting a blond-haired LDO boy right in the face. The head was blown clean off of the childlike figure and it exploded in dark matter, along with the rest of the body.
“Kaleb!” Kelly hissed as the LDOs immediately headed towards the Guardians, set on attacking. She fired a shot at another boy LDO wearing a striped shirt and watched as her gun blew a hole in his chest before he exploded in dark matter. There was no blood and no gore, just darkness to serve as a testament to their inhumanity. Braden easily incapacitated a twin set of pigtailed girl LDOs that seemed intent on taking him down.
“What? They’re not real k-AAAH!” Kaleb yelled as one of them dove at his feet. He instinctively pulled out the Disney sword and impaled the childlike perpetrator, which began screaming. For a moment, Braden felt horrified and guilty upon hearing the screams, but he snapped out of it and grabbed Kelly’s shoulder when she seemed to be in danger of falling for the Darkling’s trick. All she had to do was look into Braden’s eyes and she snapped out of it, turning away shyly for a moment. Braden raised his gun then, and took out the remaining LDO as it attempted to flee, while Kelly ran forward and immediately began trying to unbind the pair of chipmunks.
“It’s no use!” Kelly cried as she tugged at the firm ropes while Braden checked behind the service desk, eyes searching for any more threats. Kaleb moved over to help her and tugged powerfully at the ropes, with no avail.
“The sword.” Kaleb breathed gently. He unsheathed it and admired the gleam it gave in the light before bringing it over to the bit of rope between the pair of chipmunks before bringing it over his head and down with a swift chop.
The rope snapped apart easily, severed in two by the sparkling blade. The two chipmunks stood at once as Braden found a small red disc in the shape of a Mickey hidden behind the service desk. He picked it up and pocketed it.
“Thank you!” one chipmunk, Chip, cried. “We've been trapped here for a long time!”
“Ah, it’s no problem.” Kaleb said, rubbing the back of his head modestly. Both chipmunks stretched out their tired limbs while Kelly smiled. Braden pulled the disc out of his pocket momentarily and the other two cheered as he held it up for them.
“You guys need to get somewhere safe.” Braden said. “There are Darklings out and about. They’ll probably go after my group first. Do you know where to go?”
“Yessir!” Dale chirped. Kaleb stepped out of the store with them momentarily, keeping his eyes on them until they had gone. Kelly cried out and pulled a slip of paper with a Mickey emblem on it from under a stuffed animal and the four of them packed into a huddle around the note.
“What’s it say?” Kaleb asked impatiently, sheathing the Disney Sword.
“All it says is ‘I suggest the submarines’.” Kelly said, rereading the note several times. “What does that mean?”
“The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.” Braden breathed. Tony was the first to gaze at him, followed by the other two. It was useful, having someone that knew Disney as well as Braden did on-board for the adventure.
“What’s that?” Kelly asked as Braden drew his gun and headed out of the store. Braden mechanically began walking through Tomorrowland, flanked by the others. His sights were set on the submarine ride.
“It’s the only ride here with a submarine.” Braden explained. “Mickey must want us to head over there next.” He headed into the ride queue, allowing the other two to dutifully follow him. He frowned, seeing a glowing number eight in the air above the ride. There was no green button for “GO”, so he assumed it might be inside the submarine. He held the door open for the others and clambered in with them.
Nothing happened. There was no button inside.
“This is quite the thrilling ride.” Kaleb joked, relaxing inside the sub.
“I don’t understand.” Braden murmured. “I must have passed the button.” He stepped outside of the ride and looked around before noticing the number eight had become a number 6. Frowning, he called the others out of the boat and watched the number climb back up to eight. Nothing happened, however, when Tony exited the ride. He explained the dilemma to the others.
“Maybe we need at least eight people.” Kelly said. “And if it doesn't count Tony, maybe it means we need four more people that are closer in age to us. Real guardians.”
“I hope.” Braden said. He held hands with Kaleb and Kelly and they prepared to fly off before looking at Tony.
“Where do we take you, Tony?” Kelly asked. The small boy shivered a bit.
“My hotel is inside Disneyland.” the boy chirped. “So I think if you guys take me to the nearest Monorail station, I’ll be fine.” The small boy smiled at them, and they took hands with him and flew him to the Monorail, making sure he was safely on board the vehicle before leaving themselves. As Braden and Kaleb dropped Kelly off at her window, Braden turned to face them both.
“Tomorrow, meet down at the breakfast bar. We can catch the Disneyland shuttle together and scout around the park.” Braden said. The other two agreed to this and as they flew to their separate rooms, Braden wondered where he would find four more people he could get caught up in this madness as his head hit the pillow and he fell into a deep sleep.